To know Joseph, you have to start with his father, Jacob. Jacob was in love with Rachel and wanted to marry her but her father tricked him into marrying Leah (Rachel’s sister) first. He had to wait a few more years before he got to marry Rachel, the love of his life. Anyway, once he and Rachel were married, it took them many years before they could have children. Rachel was considered barren. But, eventually, God blessed them with the birth of a son. This son was Joseph. Jacob fathered twelve sons; 6 from his wife Leah, 2 from Rachel, and 2 each from his wives handmaids. It’s fair to say that of all the women in Jacob’s life, he ONLY loved Rachel, so that made her children favored in his eyes. And this is where Joseph’s story begins…
Now, being favored among 11 other siblings is not a good thing. And it wasn’t good for Joseph or his brothers. They hated Joseph. He gets a car. They don’t. He gets Armani; they get K-Mart. He gets summer camp; they get summer jobs. He gets educated; they get angry…. And they get even. So, they planned to kill Joseph in the wilderness. The oldest son, Reuben, objected to murder and suggested that they throw Joseph into a pit and then sell him as a slave and tell their father that he had been killed by wild animals. So, that is what they did.
Joseph finds himself shackled and being bought by a wealthy Egyptian named Potiphar. Okay, so long story short, Joseph is now owned by Potiphar and lives in his prison as his slave. But, Joseph had a gift… and God had a plan.
When King Pharaoh began having some strange dreams that no one could help him with, he heard that Joseph had the gift of being able to interpret dreams. So, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh to tell him what his dreams meant, and he did. And, eventually, Pharaoh gave him a HUGE promotion. He made Joseph his second in command. So, Joseph went from prisoner/slave to prime minister! Imagine that!
Now, twenty-two years later, a great famine occurs and devastates the land and everyone in it, including Jacob and his sons. Jacob sends his sons to Egypt for help. And who do they go to for help? The prime minister, of course. As they are standing before Joseph, they don’t recognize him, but Joseph recognizes them.
Well, here’s his chance to get even. The last time he saw his brothers, he was looking up at them from a pit they threw him in to. Here’s his chance to do to his brothers what they had done to him. The power was now in his hands. What would he do with them? They really hurt him and the human side of us all wants justice for Joseph.
But, Joseph knew that judgment is God’s job. Not Joseph’s. Not mine and not yours. That job belongs only to God. To assume otherwise is to assume God can’t do it. When we take it upon ourselves to pass judgement on another person we are telling God that we think that He can’t do His job good enough. We are telling Him that we think we can do it better than Him. Joseph understands that, and rather than get even, he tells them who he is and offers them safety and provides them a place to live. Wow!
For the next 17 years they all live in peace. But then, Jacob dies. Joseph’s brothers fear that Jacob’s death would mean the end of them under Joseph’s hand. So they go to Joseph and plead for mercy. Joseph’s response? “When Joseph received the message, he cried” (Gen. 50:17). “What more do I have to do?” he says through tears. “I’ve given you a home. I’ve provided for your families. Why do you still mistrust my grace?” He is telling them that revenge belongs to God alone. Joseph follows up with “You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done” (v. 20). Joseph refuses to focus on the betrayal of his brothers without also seeing the loyalty of his God. This is called forgiveness. Forgiveness is not saying the one who hurt you was right. Forgiveness is stating that God is fair and He will do what is right. His job is to judge, our job is to forgive. And, don’t we have enough to do without trying to do God’s job too?